The main goals of a warehouse operation are to fulfil orders accurately. Choosing a warehouse management system (WMS) does not require in depth knowledge of the technologies once this principle is kept in mind.
Order accuracy is all about picking the right product in the right quantity for the right customer at the right time. It is also important to choose technology that is right for a particular warehouse operation and which costs as little as possible. Whether choosing a WMS for the first time or upgrading from one type to another, it is important to consider what the different WMS technologies bring to the table.
• Picking the wrong item because items are disorganized at the pick location or because the picker is at the wrong location.
• Incorrect item quantity errors occur when the picker does not pick the right number of items; this may occur because of large item quantities being picked.
• Quantities on a pick list may be misread because of poor lighting or poorly printed pick lists.
Lights at the stock locations are connected to the Warehouse Management System and are illuminated to direct the picker as to which items to pick. The picker scans a barcode on a picking container, indicating a particular order. A light above a stock bin will illuminate indicating the item and quantity to be picked for the order. This system is best suited to high density warehouses with small, light items and where pickers are required to be both very fast as well as accurate. It is not as well suited for picking items by case or picking a range of products when compared to the two other WMS technologies.
• RF Scanning
Pickers use RF scanners to scan bar codes on products and pick locations. They receive instructions for the pick via the scanner, which allows them to be tracked and to receive any additional instructions. The tracking and support elements are good for picking accuracy. RF scanning comes with a drawback when compared to Pick to Light and Voice. The drawback is in the form of the RF scanner, which limits the picker to using one hand to make the pick. This can make the lifting of heavier or more awkward items difficult.
The picker wears a portable computer that has a headset and microphone attached. The picker gets instructions on the item to be picked and the pick location via the headset and confirms actions via the microphone and the computer’s speech-recognition software. Operation is totally hands free and the picker’s computer communicates with the WMS via a wireless network. Voice is the most versatile of the three and is best for ROI.